A study from the University of Notthingham suggests that eating fruits and vegetables rich in carotenoids, such as carrots and tomatoes, will impart a more healthy glow to skin than sun exposure. The study, led by Ian Stephen, PhD, from the School of Psychology, University of Nottingham, Malaysia Campus, was published in the Journal Evolution and Human Behaviour.
Stephen and his team in the Perception Lab found that individuals who eat more fruit and vegetables per day have a more golden skin color due to carotenoids—antioxidants that help soak up damaging compounds produced by daily stressors. Responsible for the red coloring in fruit and vegetables such as carrots and tomatoes, carotenoids are reportedly important for immune and reproductive systems.
According to the university report, Stephen and his team found that, given the choice between skin color produced by sun tanning and skin color caused by carotenoids, test subjects preferred the carotenoid skin color. The researchers note this finding is important because evolution would favor individuals who choose to form alliances or mate with healthier individuals over unhealthy individuals.
While this study focuses on Caucasian faces, other studies have reportedly suggested that the effect may exist cross-culturally since similar preferences for skin yellowness were found in an African population.
The described work was funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) and Unilever Research, and published with support from the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) and the British Academy and Wolfson Foundation.